Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sausage Manicotti


In this digital age, it is so easy just to snap pictures all the time, view them on social media and so forth, without having any hard copies. I think it is important to have hard copies of your favorite memories. We have many many scrapbooks full of the past and I want to continue that for the future. There is something romantic about spending time looking through books together that are filled with your own memories. 
Romantic Tip: Fill a scrapbook with souvenirs and special mementos of your times together, such as concert ticket stubs, a napkin from a restaurant where you had a special evening together, romantic photos, etc.

I have been making Manicotti for years. I actually can remember the first time. I was in College watching the movie "Summer School". One of the characters had a crush on their teacher and when he came home, she was in his kitchen cooking dinner. He said: "Smells good, what is it?" she said "yum... Manicotti!" I had not ever had Manicotti before and did not know what it was. So I looked it up and made it the next week. This is how my cooking has always been. Don't be afraid if you have not had it before. It is a full on winner! Winner Winner Manicotti for dinner!


Sausage Manicotti

1/2 lb italian sausage (use hot if you like spice)
1 Tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
3 garlic cloves minced
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
7 Manicotti noodles
Marinara Sauce


Remove the casings from your sausage.
Add oil, Italian seasoning, garlic, onion, and sausage to a large skillet.
Cook on medium heat until sausage is browned and cooked through.
Set aside to cool while you cook your noodles.
Cook noodles according to package directions.
Drain and put on foil to cool and dry.
Once Sausage mixture is room temperature, add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and egg. Stir to combine.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
When noodles are cool enough to handle, stuff them carefully with the sausage cheese mixture using a small spoon, stuff each noodle one by one.
Add your stuffed noodles to a baking dish. 
Top your noodles with marinara sauce and sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.
Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover and cook for 10 more.
Serve!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Garlic Cheesy Dinner Rolls


One of my favorite things to do is slip a love note or a card into my husbands lunch, or pocket, or car. Somewhere that he isn't expecting. Sometimes it takes him several hours to realize it is there, but when he does, he always calls or text messages me about how grateful he is. It makes us both feel good. 
Romantic Tip: Slip a love note in your love's pants or coat pocket.

Another favorite thing I love to do, is cook for my Man. These are his favorite homemade rolls. If you love cheese and garlic, these are for you!


Garlic Cheesy Dinner Rolls

1 1/4 tsp yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 TBSP fresh minced garlic, divided
2 TBSP melted Butter, divided
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided
1 3/4 cups flour

Add the water to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and sprinkle the sugar and  yeast over the top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until the yeast becomes frothy. Add the oil, salt and egg to the bowl. Add the flour and mix on medium-low speed for about 2 minutes, just until the dough comes together. If the dough doesn’t clear the sides of the bowl, continue adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time.

Increase speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Add the salt and mix on low speed for an additional minute. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch baking pan. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Equally divide each half into 7 pieces about the size of a golf ball (2 ounces each if you’re weighing). Gently roll into rounds and place in the pans, leaving about half an inch of space between them. Half your garlic, butter and parmesan cheese. Using only half your garlic, butter and parmesan. Top each ball with garlic, melted butter and parmesan cheese. Let rise for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Cover rolls and allow to rise for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350º. 
With remaining butter, brush each roll with melted butter. Top with remaining garlic and parmesan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mini chocolate cakes


 
Chocolate. The natural aphrodisiac provided by God. I have heard it said so many times; "this chocolate is better than sex!" Well, I don't know about that, but I do know chocolate and sex go together. It has been proven that Women who consume chocolate daily have a higher degree of sexual satisfaction. The study, which was funded by a university for academic purposes, and not by a chocolate company, indicated that even women who normally had a lower libido reported an increase in their sex drive after consuming chocolate. Why? Chocolate contains both Serotonin and Phenylethylamine, which are mood-lifting hormones found naturally in the human brain. When we consume chocolate, we increase our normal levels of both, which leads to that feeling of excitement, as well as an increased level of energy. 

Romantic Tip: Serve some chocolate after dinner and make tonight's dessert incredibly romantic.


We were recently invited to a "mini-food" party. How fun! I wasn't sure at first what I would create. Then I decided Chocolate was a safe bet at a party. These individual serving cakes are a perfect party pleaser. Just the right portion for one person. 


Mini Chocolate Cakes
adapted from http://www.lauraadamache.ro

Layers
6 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 Vanilla bean

Ganache filling
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup dark chocolate
1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of white rum

Syrup
3/4 cups water
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons of Brandy

Frosting
1/2 cup unsalted butter
10 tablespoons sugar
10 tablespoons cocoa powder
12 tablespoons milk
1/2 tablespoon gelatin powder

optional garnish 
Shaved chocolate bar

Add Eggs, Sugar and inside of the vanilla bean to a large mixing bowl. 
Whip the eggs with the sugar and the vanilla until they change color and their volume triples. Sift together the flour and the cocoa powder. Gradually add the flour and cocoa mix to the egg batter and gently fold them in, from bottom to top.

Butter and flour a rectangular pan 11x9 and pour the batter in.
 Bake the sponge cake in the preheated oven at a temperature of 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

Remove the sponge cake from the oven, let it cool for a bit in the pan, then flip it over on a rack and let it cool completely while you make the ganache. It will be firm, don't worry, it is a sponge cake and will be absorbing syrup.

Pour the heavy whipping cream in a saucepan and add the butter. Simmer on very low heat and make sure it doesn’t get to a boil! 
When the mixture gets very hot, remove from heat and add the chocolate cut into very small pieces and the rum. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted then let the mixture cool down for about 10 minutes. 
After 10 minutes, start to whip it until it turns into a lightly colored frosting. You will need approximately 10 to 15 minutes until it thickens. After it is cool enough, leave it on the counter until you start putting the cakes together.

How to make the syrup
In a small saucepan, mix the water and the fructose and simmer on low heat. When the fructose is completely dissolved, put out the heat, add the brandy and the vanilla extract and cover the saucepan with a lid. Let the syrup cool down.

Cut the sponge cake into circles using cake ring. 
Place the first sponge cake layer in your baking pan.
Top it with 1 or 2 tablespoons of syrup, add some ganache.
 Place the second sponge cake layer, moisten it with the syrup and then top with the ganache. It will pour over the sides and create a "frosting". 
You can stop here, or add a shaved chocolate bar on the top as garnish. 
Enjoy!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cinnamon Rolls


Memory lane... Everyone takes a stroll down it from time to time. When you have history with someone, it can be one of the best things to do. My husband and I like to look through old pictures, cards, love notes. It reminds us of how we fell in love and why we keep the love alive. I highly recommend you go down memory lane with your partner. Even if you have only been together a few months, it still adds a big spark. 
Romantic Tip: Create a romantic slideshow using old photos of you and your love. Sort pictures by years and events starting from when you first met until present. Add some romantic music then set a date for both of you to enjoy.

Now on to today's recipe. Cinnamon rolls are a favorite of my hubby. This recipe makes 8 so there was plenty left over for him to take to the office and share. If you like Cinnabon, then this recipe is for you.


Cinnamon Rolls
adapted from Lauren's Latest

for the dough-
3/8 cup warm water
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast {use the fast acting kind!}
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 egg
1/8 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

for the filling-
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cornstarch

for the frosting-
2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup softened margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar


  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, pour in water, yeast and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar. 
  • Once mixture looks bubbly and frothy, pour in remaining sugar and salt. 
  • In a small bowl, measure buttermilk, oil and egg. 
  • Whisk ingredients together until egg is incorporated to other two ingredients. Pour contents into the water and yeast mixture. Stir  20 seconds in the mixer. 
  • Pour 2 cups of flour into mixer and stir on low until incorporated. Sprinkle flour in by 1/4 cup increments until dough cleans the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Once it has reached this stage, turn mixer on and knead for 5 minutes. Remove dough from bowl, grease and replace back into same mixing bowl. 
  • Cover with plastic wrap and a dish towel. Place in a warm place. Rise 1-2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.
  • In a medium size bowl, stir brown sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch together until combined. Set aside. Punch down dough. Flour a large clean table liberally with flour. 
  • Roll dough out to be a 20x30 rectangle, while moving dough around to ensure it's not sticking to your work surface.
  • Spread softened butter over dough, being sure to go right to the edges leaving a 1-inch strip untouched on one of the longer sides of dough. 
  • Dump brown sugar mixture onto the middle of the dough and spread with your hands, creating an even layer over top of the butter, still leaving that 1-inch strip of dough untouched. Roll the dough up into a tight log, finishing with the plain dough on the bottom to seal the entire thing together. 
  • Cut off the uneven ends to even out the log. Score log every 2 inches and then slice your rolls using those marks. Place into parchment paper lined, butter greased pans. 12 into a 9x13, 3 remaining into a loaf pan, or 8x8 with the small ends. Cover pans with plastic wrap and dish towels. Let rolls rise another 1-2 hours or until they are touching and have risen almost double. 
  • Bake in a preheated 350 degree for 17 minutes, or until tops start to brown. 
  • While the rolls are baking, whip cream cheese and butter together. Stir in vanilla, and corn syrup. 
  • Scrape sides and mix again. Pour in powdered sugar and stir slowly until it starts to incorporate. 
  • Then mix on high for 5 minutes or until frosting starts to lighten in color. Scrape sides and mix again briefly. 
  • Once rolls have been removed from the oven, frost using half the amount made. Then after they have cooled a few more minutes, frost again with remaining frosting. The first frosting will melt down into the rolls and the second layer should stay put. 
  • Serve warm.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Homemade Olive Garden Breadsticks





Do you play games? Board games that is. Call me silly and old fashioned if you must, but my husband and I do. Want to know the funny thing? It helps our love life. We find we talk more, laugh more, and flirt more when we play games. I mean at the end of the day a lot of people just switch on the television. We try to limit our TV intake and spend our time living our lives rather than watching other people live theirs. It brings us close together. With the vast selection of games out there for 2 people, you will find something you both enjoy. 

Romantic Tip: Spend the evening playing games together. Cards and Board games, not video games. Get competitive and then even out the score in the bedroom later. 

Now on to today's recipe...Yesterday I told you about our early years dating on a budget. So I thought I would share with you the bread sticks I served along with the soup. You would be surprised to learn these are very very easy to make. You don't need to be a star baker or have special equipment. They are ready in a little over an hour. So go on! Get baking!


Homemade Olive Garden Breadsticks
adapted from Mom, What's For Dinner?

3/4 cups warm water
1/2 packet active dry yeast
2 1/8 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. butter melted
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 Tbsp. salt
For topping:
1/2 stick butter  1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoons salt.

In a bowl (1 quart or larger) , dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered. Mixture should be frothy.
In separate large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Add yeast mixture to it. Add melted butter. Mix with paddle attachment of stand mixer or wooden spoon until fully combined.

Knead dough for a few minutes just until dough is smooth.
Grease a cookie sheet. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into strips. Cover the dough and let sit in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour. I use my heating pad for perfect temperature.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and once heated, pop in the bread sticks.

In microwave, or on stovetop,  melt the following: 1/2 stick butter  1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoons salt.
After bread sticks have cooked for 6 or 7 minutes, brush the bread sticks with half the butter mixture. Then continue to bake. Bake for 5-8 more minutes.
Immediately upon removal from the oven brush the other half of the butter on the sticks. Allow to cool for a few minutes before eating.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tuscan Potato Sausage and Kale Soup



I remember the days when my hubby and I were on a much tighter budget. With 5 kids, It was hard to find date time. Still we made it a priority to have a date once a week, come rain or shine. In the earlier tight for time and money days, we went to affordable restaurants like Olive Garden for their soup, salad, and bread sticks. While I am not a huge fan of Olive Garden. I do have a lot of good memories from there. I also adore their Zuppa Toscana soup, which is a creamy soup filled with spicy sausage and kale. I got it every time we went, along with their Italian Margarita. It may not have been much, but to us it was a date, just the two of us. The kids were not there to interrupt, and that made it romantic. 
Romantic Tip: No matter what your budget is, remember to have one date night a week. Getting out together sparks conversation and rekindles romance that fades so fast in today's busy hustle and bustle life. 

You can half this recipe and end up with 2 perfect large "entree" sized soup bowls full. My husband likes to take this to work though, so I am making the regular batch. 



Tuscan Potato Sausage and Kale Soup a.k.a. Zuppa Toscana
adapted from Mom, What's For Dinner?

1 lb Spicy Italian sausage
2 large russet baking potatoes,
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups kale chopped
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Remove sausage casing and ground up meat with a spatula in a skillet over medium high heat. Add Bacon, onion and garlic.Cook until meat is cooked through, Drain.



Slice Potatoes in half,and then in half again and then in 1/4 inch slices.
Place potatoes, chicken broth, and water in pot and cover, and cook on medium heat until potatoes are done.
Add sausage and bacon
Salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer for another 10 minutes.
Turn to low heat.
Add kale and cream.



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chilean Sea Bass with Green Gazpacho



My man is all about Seafood, so it was a blessing to work with Certified Steak and Seafood Company's Chilean Sea Bass this past week.
Chilean Sea Bass is a popular favorite in restaurants across America, the best Chilean Sea Bass now comes to your table courtesy Certified Steak and Seafood. Harvested and processed under close inspection of the National Marine Fishery Service, this soft, tender and smooth fish is a smart and healthy purchase. It is  Easy to Cook, Wild Caught, 3rd Party Certified, Product of Chile.

So I set out to make a dish my husband would remember forever. Success! With each bite my husbands sounds of "oh my goodness" and "yummmmm" and the "this is an A+"... My happiness increased. Nothing makes me more satisfied than pleasing my Man. Funny how while setting out to please him, it in turn made me very happy too. It set the stage for a very romantic evening between us. 


Romantic Tip: Find something that your significant other really likes. Maybe it isn't something you would choose, maybe it is. You will be surprised how happy it makes you too! Finish the night out in some sexy lingerie for a finishing touch!


Chilean Sea Bass with Green Gazpacho

1/2 large English cucumber, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped green onions
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped 
1 TBSP Canola Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 8 ounce Chilean Sea Bass Filets
Optional garnishes:
Fresh slivers of jalapeno or serrano peppers
Chopped tomato

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the cucumber, scallions, jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, Olive oil, and the Vinegar in the bowl of a food processor or blender. 
Pulse the machine to create the sauce, making sure not to overdo it, you do want some texture. 
Remove the sauce to a bowl and cover and chill until ready to use. 

Heat one tablespoon of Canola oil in a large non-stick skillet (cast iron is preferred) over medium-high heat. Season both sides of each fish filet with with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. When hot, slip the fish into the skillet. Cook 4 minutes on the first side, then carefully flip them and cook another 3 minutes. 
Remove skillet from the stove-top and put in the pre-heated oven until the filet is just opaque, but still very moist in the center. About 10 minutes. If you are subbing a different style of fish you may need to skip this step. Chilean Sea Bass is very thick and needs extra cooking time. 
To serve, you can simply spoon some sauce into a shallow bowl and top with a piece of fish, and sprinkle with sliced peppers and some fresh chopped tomatoes. 
Then you dig in to this flaky moist fish. 
This dish was outstanding! It is a fresh and healthy treat for dinner!

Now you have the opportunity to get restaurant quality Steak and Seafood delivered to your door at a big discount with the following coupon:
   
Simply go to Certified Steak and Seafood Company's website HERE and enter the above coupon code at checkout. 
This sponsorship is brought to you by Certified Steak & Seafood Company who we have partnered with for this promotion.

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